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Nero Wolfe: Season 1 (2001)

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Studio: A&E Home Video
Genre: Television, Crime, Crime TV, Crime TV
Languages: English
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Created in 1934 by mystery writer Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe was a wealthy, eccentric, short-tempered, self-indulgent dilettante who happened to be a genius at solving crimes. Weighing "one-seventh of a ton," Wolfe disliked working, socializing (particularly with women), and self-exertion, preferring to spend all his time in his elegant 35th Street brownstone in New York City, speaking in pretentious epigrams, raising his prize-winning hothouse orchids, eating rich gourmet food, smoking expensive cigars, and generously sampling his collection of rare beers. Only under certain conditions would he agree to accept a case requiring his keen sense of deduction and analysis: if the client could meet his exorbitant price, if his own sense of justice and fair play had been violated, or if his wisecracking assistant Archie Goodwin had insisted upon taking the case, usually at the behest of a beautiful damsel in distress. Almost never venturing out of his apartment, Wolfe dispatched Archie to do the legwork, collect the clues, and absorb the physical abuse which went hand in glove with "hard-boiled" detective work. Once Archie's work was done, Wolfe would assemble and analyze the clues, come up with the solution, and summon forth his "friendly enemy" Police Inspector Cramer to slip the cuffs on the guilty party. Nero Wolfe has been played on film, radio, and TV by such heavyweight actors as Edward Arnold, Walter Connolly, Sydney Greenstreet, Thayer David, and William Conrad, but so far as most mystery aficionados are concerned, the actor who came closest to capturing the "real" Wolfe was Maury Chaykin, who played the role in the A&E TV series bearing the blanket title A Nero Wolfe Mystery.
Introduced as the two-hour movie The Golden Spiders on March 5, 2000, and launched as a regular, hour-long series on April 22, 2001, the A&E version also faithfully recreated the spirit and substance of the original Rex Stout novels, right down to the period atmosphere (the show was set in the '50s) and a to-the-letter recreation of Wolfe's brownstone apartment at 914 W. 35th Street (including the famous one-way mirror, allowing Wolfe to take a look at his clients before actually meeting them). Likewise, the series' take on Archie Goodwin was pure Rex Stout. As played by Timothy Hutton (who also narrated the episodes in first-person, in keeping with Stout's customary style), Archie was insufferably arrogant, chauvinistic, and slightly dimwitted, speaking in pure "film noir-ese" as he gathered clues and gave the stories' various "dames" the once-over. Other characters lifted from the novels included Wolfe's security chief and Archie's right-hand man Saul Panzer (Conrad Dunn), Fritz Brenner (Colin Fox), Wolfe's invaluable gourmet chef; and Bill Smitrovich as the long-suffering Inspector Cramer. The individual episodes of A Nero Wolfe Mystery were adapted from the classic Rex Stout Wolfe novels and short stories, bearing such titles as "The Doorbell Rang" and "Death of a Doxy." ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Disc One contains episodes 1-2:

  • The Doorbell Rang
  • Champagne for One

GreenCine Member Ratings

Nero Wolfe: Season 1 (Disc 1 of 3) (2001)
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7.88 (8 votes)
Nero Wolfe: Season 1 (Disc 2 of 3) (2001)
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8.17 (6 votes)
Nero Wolfe: Season 1 (Disc 3 of 3) (2001)
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8.17 (6 votes)

GreenCine Member Reviews

Fun, but not gripping by marleigh December 11, 2005 - 11:08 AM PST
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
When I rented this, I was expecting a really interesting, convoluted mystery. As a mystery, I wasn't impressed. There wasn't anything particularly gripping about it. I wasn't eagerly trying to figure out whodunit, sitting on the edge of my seat with anticipation. Despite this, I enjoyed the series and have gone ahead and rented the rest. Why? The characters.

There's a cast of really amusing, quirky characters there with fun repartee. The incorrigible Archie Godwin, played by Timothy Hutton, is a wonderful smart alec foil for Maury Chaykin's stodgy Nero Wolfe. Rounding out the cast are a set of excellent character actors who play someone different every episode. Of particular note is the incomparable Kari Matchett, who usually plays Archie's love interest du jour. Her range is excellent - she feels like she's channeling Katherine Hepburn in Bringing up Baby in one of the early episodes - and she adds a nice touch of class to the show. The whole cast has nice chemistry together, and are clearly enjoying themselves, dressing up in fedoras and doing their impressions of 1950s acting. If youre the sort with a soft spot for that kind of thing, you'll enjoy it. If not, you'll probably find it self-indulgent and a bit dull.

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